"Ten o'clock each morning serves the housewife and the homemaker Monday through Saturday." So proclaims WNYC announcer Tommy Cowan at the beginning of the first presentation of "Have Fun with Your Children" (sometimes called "City Fun with Children"), a public affairs program produced specifically for mothers by author Becky Reyher. For three years, Ms. Reyher welcomed experts on local cultural events and educational programs into the studio to discuss ways to entertain children in the city. In honor of Mother's Day, we're taking a closer look at this show and its dynamic hostess.
Rebecca Hourwich Reyher was born in New York City in 1897. Three years later, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where, in 1913, she attended the first suffrage parade in the United States. Her experience there inspired a life dedicated to women's issues around the world.
In New York City, she helped organize the National Women's Party, an organization that focused its efforts on passing a constitutional amendment ensuring a woman's right to vote, and later married writer Ferdinand Reyher, with whom she had one daughter, Faith, in 1919. Reyher continued to travel frequently for her work with the National Women's Party while shouldering most of the responsibility for raising Faith alone. The Reyhers' unconventional marriage ended in divorce in 1934.
Reyher's involvement with women's issues sent her to African countries several times, visits she used to write many articles and books. One book, Zulu Woman (1945), which told the story of Christina Sibiya, the first of the Zulu king Solomon kaDinuzulu's 65 wives, was written after a trip Reyher took to Zululand with her daughter.
In the midst of these trips and other work with the National Women's Party, Reyher wrote two children's books, Babies and Puppies are Fun (1944) and My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (1945). Despite her extensive involvement with the women's suffrage movement and advocacy for women in African countries, these two children's books are Reyher's only accomplishments mentioned in the introduction of the ten-minute program she hosted for WNYC.
Most Tuesday mornings from 1945 to 1948 featured Reyher's informational segment for mothers in which she quizzed local experts on activities and educational opportunities for the city's children and families. Many of her shows explore exhibitions and classes at museums around town, and some delve deeply in to the city's scenic parks and transportation routes.
In this episode, the first of the series, Reyher speaks to "an authority on children," former teacher Margaret Bishop, who recommends rotating the activity planning duties in a family to avoid causing the children to feel that "Mother is taking over - she is going to improve us." The most important thing, Mrs. Bishop says, is to "have a program: plan ahead for the summer, present the whole family program to each other, and talk it over each day at meals."
Reyher and Bishop go on to suggest some specific local sites popular among children: the Staten Island Ferry and Staten Island Snake Park, the scenic 5th Avenue bus lines, the taxiing planes at La Guardia Field, the world money collection at Chase Bank, and the bustling city markets, among others. And don't forget, Mrs. Bishop reminds us, the children have actively participated in war drives, so "maybe they would think it's fun to do something as a family-unit connected with the war." Try collections of war relics and other war memorials.
And remember, parents, "it's up to you and the children whether this summer will be the one you will all remember as the happiest, fullest, and most interesting you ever had!"
Thanks to the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America for their exhaustive biography on Rebecca Hourwich Reyher.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives collection.